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Donte Moncrief: Steelers debut 'my worst game ever'

The entire Steelers offense is getting used to life without Antonio Brown on the field. That much was apparent in Pittsburgh's 30-point loss to the Patriots.

Perhaps no player's role will be affected more than wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who wasn't even on the team last year. The free-agent acquisition saw a team-high 10 targets in Week 1. It amounted to three catches for 7 yards.

"It's sickening when you watch it and you know the plays that you're supposed to make and you didn't make them," Moncrief said, via the team's site. "And you see them and you're like, 'Gosh, I know I gotta make that.' The other day, after we watched that film, there was a feeling in my stomach, it hurt. I went home, went straight to sleep, it hurt me. I had to put that away."

The Steelers would hope. With defenses expected to key on JuJu Smith-Schuster all season, another wideout will have to emerge. Moncrief repeatedly drew Ben Roethlisberger's attention, only he struggled to haul in numerous passes that hit him in the hands.

The sixth-year veteran has been playing through a dislocated middle finger that he suffered in training camp. That wasn't something Moncrief pointed to for his problems.

"You can't just put it on that," he said. "I gotta make plays, period. You gotta go with it, even if it's hurt or not you still gotta play. (Roethlisberger) depended on me and I gotta make plays for him, hurt finger or not. ... "He believes in me. He knows what I can do. I know what I can do. At the end of the day that was my worst game ever in my career, and it hurt."

For what it's worth, Big Ben said the rough debut won't deter him from targeting his new receiver.

"I'm not going to shy away from him," Roethlisberger said. "I'm excited for him this week. I think we'll see some big things."

That's what the Steelers were looking after signing Moncrief in March, just a few days after shipping Brown to the Raiders. Moncrief caught 48 passes for the Jaguars in 2018 after spending his first four years with the Colts.

His best season came all the way back in 2015 -- he had 64 receptions, 733 yards, 6 TDs -- with a healthy Andrew Luck. Moncrief could easily eclipse those numbers in the Steelers' pass-happy offense. (No team threw more in 2018.) He'll just have to play better than he did this past Sunday.

"That was my first one like that, that was a bad one," Moncrief said. "It hurt, but at the end of the day it's the NFL, all you can do is get better the next day. You gotta bounce back. You can't let it hold you down."

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